Genealogy for Beginners: Weaving Your Tapestry

So far in this series, we’ve talked about speaking with your relatives to gather preliminary information about your ancestors and then taking that compiled data home, organizing it and creating a preliminary chart or timeline.  By now you should have a pretty good idea of what data you have, where that fits into your family history and what information you need to fill it out and keep going back. That brings us to the next step on the road to genealogical success:  weaving your tapestry.

Once upon a time, genealogy research meant traveling halfway around the world to scour hundreds of volumes of clerical indexes kept at a variety of official repositories and collect records.  While this practice is still sometimes necessary to get to the more obscure or non digitized records out there, and is a great way to get out and see the sites, meet new people (perhaps even a new cousin or two) and experience something new, most people can’t afford to go globe trotting for answers that might not be there. Luckily we have the internet!

Over the last 10 to 15 or years or so, online genealogy research has exploded into quite the cottage industry. There are hundreds if not thousands of online resources at your disposal; sites that provide birth, death, census, marriage, military, passenger manifestos, immigration records, news archives, and so on. The real trick is in knowing what to look for and where to look!

Searching for primary records (vital records: marriage, birth, & death) should be one of the first priorities of all genealogy research. For example, GenWed.com is a free online resource for old marriage records. You can conduct searches by surname but also searching the maiden name of an ancestor’s wife may bring a whole new set of relatives into focus. Other information such as residence and occupation of a new husband and parents of the bride and groom obtained from marriage records can be invaluable in finding more of your family as well as adding priceless insight.  You can search primary records by searching for both the groom and the bride, approximate time frame, etc and start to tie things together – then move into census searches to prove location, track moves, occupations, news archives, etc and you’re well on your way!

The biggest thing to remember here is DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!! You are bound to hit a LOT of dead ends, follow the wrong path, etc – but that does not mean you won’t get it right. This type of research takes time! If you get stuck there are things you can do – including asking for help in any number of genealogy discussion groups and forums. For a list of resources to get you started, go to our home page or check out our other resources link.


Next entry – To Pay or Not to Pay – Free Resources versus Paid Services

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